LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As little as 24 hours ago, all ears at Sunday's Grammy Awards were expected to tune-in to the sound of soul singer Adele, who was predicted to be the top winner on music's big night.
Then Whitney Houston died.
Houston's unexplained death in a Beverly Hills hotel room on the eve of the industry's top honors shocked the music world, and Grammy organizers have changed Sunday's program to honor the singer who sold hundreds of millions of records and enjoyed hits like "I will Always Love You" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."
Actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for her role in movie musical "Dreamgirls," will perform a medley of songs in tribute to Houston.
"We will do something appropriate tomorrow, and nothing could be more appropriate than having Jennifer Hudson sing on stage for Whitney," Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy that gives out the Grammys, said on Saturday night at a pre-Grammy party hosted by music producer Clive Davis.
The cause of Houston's death is pending an autopsy and coroner's report, but the music industry's top stars from newcomers like Katy Perry, Rihanna and Adele to veterans like Bruce Springsteen and the Beach Boys will be on hand at the Grammys to remember Houston's life and music.
Grammy organizers give out awards in more than 75 categories and several early winners gave a nod to Houston in acceptance speeches. Singer Melanie Fiona, who won with Cee Lo Green for traditional R&B performance for "Fool For You" said she was inspired by Houston.
"Whitney Houston, I would not be standing up here if not for you," Fiona said.
WINEHOUSE IN THE HOUSE
Perhaps the most poignant moment came when Mitch and Janis Winehouse, parents of late singerAmy Winehouse who died of excessive drinking in 2011, accepted the award for best pop duo or group performance - Amy and Tony Bennett - "Body and Soul."
"Long live Whitney Houston. Long live Amy Winehouse and long live Etta James," adding in the "At Last" singer who died earlier this year. "There's a beautiful girl band up there."
Country singer Taylor Swift picked up two awards for her song "Mean," about an old boyfriend who wronged her, and Foo Fighters picked up three Grammys in rock categories.
Adele claimed her first Grammy of the night for best pop vocal album with "21." Adele and "21," with chart-topping songs like "Rolling in the Deep," have been nominated for six Grammys, including album of the year and record of the year.
She is second in nominations only to rapper Kanye West, who received seven nods. But West was shut out of the top categories, paving the way for Adele to be the night's big winner - or surprise loser if she fails to overcome stiff competition.
In the category of best album, Adele with "21" faces rockers Foo Fighters for their hit "Wasting Light," Lady Gaga with "Born This Way," Bruno Mars and his "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," and pop star Rihanna with "Loud."
Adele also figures prominently among nominees for record of the year where "Rolling in the Deep" squares off against rockers Bon Iver and "Holocene," Bruno Mars for "Grenade," Mumford & Sons with "The Cave," and Katy Perry for "Firework."
British singer Adele will perform in front of a live audience for the first time since vocal cord surgery late last year, and fans will want to hear if her voice is back to its sultry, soulful best.
For the first time Grammy organizers have planned a performance that spotlights dance and electronica sounds that have become increasingly popular in the past decade, moving the nightclubs and rave parties into mainstream music.
(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Stacey Joyce)